An Uncertain Future...

 Reece is such a special horse!

Reece is such a special horse!

An emotional Sophie breaks the news that top horse Valerius is injured...

So it’s probably about time I let you all know that unfortunately at the end of last year Reece sustained a suspensory injury in both hind legs and had investigations at Newmarket in January and started treatment from there. It’s taken time for me to come to terms with this, I was hoping he had another couple of years in him, being 16 this year, but this certainly changes things, and his career is unlikely to continue how I’ve known it, especially over the past few years.

It’s fair to say I was heartbroken at the news as Reece has been a massive part of my life and career over the past 11 years. He was completely not what I was looking when I was 16, the gangly four-and-a-half year old that was already over 17 hands, but he looked like the horse I had to sell to be able to buy him (Rodney) and I fell in love with his character. And he’s never grown up, is a labrador, and is always in to everything. He’s the guard dog of the yard and always knows when something isn’t right. He’s big and bolshy and in your face, but he’s also the softest, sweetest horse underneath it all, he just likes to hide it! He knows when I’m not feeling quite right and his demeanour changes completely. He’s needy to me, but I love him to the moon and back, I would do absolutely anything for him.

 Reece and his rugs!!

Reece and his rugs!!

He was there before I won my first medal and has helped me win nine golds and three silver medals at European, World and Paralympic Games since. I won my first individual Paralympic gold medal on him in Rio which was so special. And the journey we have been on together has been immense. From the broken ribs right at the beginning, him not letting us catch him in the stable and having to live in a headcollar (which didn’t always help), running off with us when he was in an open space despite having a bridle and lunge line on, refusing to load for hours on end, ripping far too many boots and bandages to remember, throwing strops when I rode other horses particularly in the early days, or if he wasn’t the first to go out. He even had attention seeking colic episodes.

He’s so noise sensitive which caused us problems, but we soon learnt ear plugs would be everyone’s saviour when it came to prize givings and he was a different horse. No one wanted to volunteer to trot him up at internationals for his airs above the ground, but this just makes him Reece. We went to the Nationals numerous times and competed up all the levels nationally to Grand Prix, which was a dream come true last year.

 A quiet moment in Rio

A quiet moment in Rio

He has never been the most talented, but he loved the attention that work brought, and we sure put in a lot of work over the years to develop him to the horse he became with the help of Angela. He has the heart of a lion, even though he was on occasions a mouse, and could also be so so stubborn... but at the end of it all, he’s needed me, and that’s what has made our journey so special, we have done it together. I couldn’t be prouder of him, and I couldn’t love him more. I'll probably go grey much earlier than I should because of him, worrying how he is in so many situations, one of which was his journey to Rio, and self-harming before every championship he was selected for. But I’ve been fortunate to have 11 years without any serious injury and I’m so so grateful for that. 

 In the arena at Rio

In the arena at Rio

He’s played a massive part in making me the rider and trainer I am today and will always be with me, in my heart. So for now we take week by week, and I will stay positive in the belief miracles can happen. Of course we don’t really have seven years for him to have off like Touchdown did (he will always be the come back king) but I really hope he can return to having a role and a purpose in his own head, in some form, and I will do everything I can.

Thank you to everyone who has been there on his journey and made a difference, and to those who have supported us in the past few months that have been fairly difficult...

It's WEG!

 WEG Tryon 2018 logo

WEG Tryon 2018 logo

Sophie updates us on what 2018 has in store.

2018 looks to be an interesting and challenging year. With the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Tryon, USA as the aim for the top horses, there are also a lot of smaller goals for the younger horses! We have a few internationals to be aiming for during the selection period, and I’m still on the look out for a young horse to join my team, and of course any owners that want to join the team, they would be very welcome!

I’ve also been selected onto the BEF Youth Pathway Coaching Programme. This is a programme to help develop coaches to work with youth athletes and understand stages of their development, as well as looking at your own development as a coach. The group of coaches from dressage, eventing and show jumping seem really lovely after our first two sessions. We have been assigned a mentor from outside equestrian to help us on our journey and have already experienced some great speakers within the course.

Lots of clients had success at the Regionals able-bodied, with some qualifying for the Winters, as well as some going to the Petplan finals at Hartpury! My para riders have had a good start to the year at the Winter championships at Myerscough and are set to have a busy year of competition.

I love working with riders to achieve their dreams. The process and journey is a massive part of that and is very fulfilling, whatever level they are at.

A Fab Year!

  A wintery hack

A wintery hack

The year is coming to a wintery end... snow has arrived, not too much for us so far, thank goodness. As part of the horses' fitness and wellbeing I usually hack out twice a week and I'm lucky to have the farm for this. On the schooling front, my new surface, cushion track from Equestrian Surfaces, has been brilliant. Even when it started snowing we were still able to ride as the wax element stops the snow balling in the horses' feet. We haven't had one day that freezing weather has stopped play which is fantastic. I'm very grateful they came and did some maintenance on it recently and it rode like new. 

  Sophie on Reece and Rhianydd on Noki

Sophie on Reece and Rhianydd on Noki

We have had a fab year with the horses, with William coming on board and being a lovely addition to the yard. With his gentle elephant like nature he is so lovely to have around. Reece and Jorge have had a fantastic season and both have stepped up to new challenges.

As always I'm very grateful to my ever loyal sponsors who continue to help me and my boys, as well as Jackie and Neil Walker, Charlotte Hogg and Valerie Woolford for being wonderful owners. And of course the rest of my team who keep the horses fit and well, and attempt to with myself as well! My new website is obviously a welcome addition too, I hope you like it - I love it! Thank you Jayne.

I wish you all a fabulous Christmas spent with loved ones (especially the four-legged variety!) and all the best for 2018. A new year and new challenges for all!

Soph x

(Thank you to Julie Priestley for the lovely winter photo shoot as part of Horse & Country's 'Rudall Rides' - can't believe it's already a year ago!) 

  Jenny Rudall, Sophie and Rhi Lee-Jones

Jenny Rudall, Sophie and Rhi Lee-Jones

  Tia takes charge as usual!

Tia takes charge as usual!

Sophie receives Equestrian of the Year Award!

 Jorge takes 3rd place in the Inter I Freestyle

Jorge takes 3rd place in the Inter I Freestyle

The Horse of the Year Show 2017 was the stuff of dreams for Sophie as she received the Equestrian of the Year Award as well as riding Charlotte Hogg's C Fatal Attraction in the Future Elite Dressage Inter I freestyle. Sophie and Jorge achieved 3rd place behind Charlotte Dujardin and Maria Eliberg with a personal best score of 76.34%.

 Sophie receiving Equestrian of the Year Award

Sophie receiving Equestrian of the Year Award

Very much the icing on the cake of a terrific season both in para and able-bodied dressage. Fantastic Sophie - we are so proud of you! 

A Very Busy Nationals...

reecenationals.jpg

Team Wells had a busy and exciting few days at the British Dressage LeMieux National Championships at Stoneleigh last weekend. With three horses contesting eight classes it was all hands on deck and the result was pleasing performances including some top 10 finishes. In addition Sophie had students competing and they also had a successful championships.

Everyone enjoyed a great learning experience either sharing the warm-up with or watching reigning Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin, who swept the board in the 10 championships she entered! Every year the standard of horses and riding goes up and the future of British dressage looks secure. Well done everybody!